Thursday, July 3, 2014

Our Nightmare flight to ISTE 2014

The morning of June 27th was an exciting morning for us. Myself, my wife, and another teacher from her school district were flying down to Atlanta to participate in ISTE 2014. My wife and Kate were presenting there for the first time and were eager to get down there to start checking in and preparing. We booked on Spirit Airlines out of Atlantic City because it was so convenient and close to us. Sometimes convenience comes at a cost and with Spirit that involves extra fees for carry-on luggage, checked luggage, and even your seat! We checked in at 9:15am for a 10:25am flight. Right before we were ready to board we noticed the left engine compartment was open. I just thought they were checking something real quick or doing routine maintenance before our flight took off.

We were told at first it would just be a few minutes until we were able to board. Time went on and the delay went from a few minutes to 30, 2hrs, and finally at 12:10 another announcement was made that we wouldn't be taking off until 2:30pm.

At just about 2:30, while the engine was still being worked on (see below) a final announcement was made that our flight was canceled. We were told there were no additional flights to Atlanta via Spirit for a few days! We all scrambled to figure out what to do with little guidance from our gate employees except to go to the ticket counter. I was in the middle of eating lunch so I sent my wife down to find out what was going on. When I arrived they were starting to issue refunds but there was no mention of putting us on another airline.

Our only option was to leave out of Philly which was about 90 minutes away. The only flight we could find was on Delta. My wife quickly called to book the flight (at a much higher rate) as others were still trying to find out what to do. I called Spirit right away to ask that they put us on another flight but was repeatedly told that "They don't do that." I asked to speak to the manager and was on hold for almost 20 minutes where I was told the manager was busy. We were only issued 1/2 a refund for the first part of our journey along with a nice $50 voucher that must be used in 60 days. There was a woman standing next to us who had just graduated high school and was visiting friends in NJ. She just wanted to get home and this was her first flying experience. We saw the look of fright and confusion in her eyes and told her to stick with us. She had no credit card or way to book travel back right away, and time was definitely of the essence. We drove her to Philly with us and booked her airfare back home.

I would like to add that the woman working the ticket counter was very professional and was doing everything under her control to assist us. My ire lies with Spirit's policies and customer service center, not the staff at the airport. The airline did offer to shuttle people up to Philly but I could not since I get major car sickness if I do not drive. So in the end we had to drive to Philly and leave our car there for 6 days then return and wasted 5hrs driving in 4th of July traffic to get our car back.

Still no word from Spirit. I strongly suggest anyone that is flying Spirit to choose another airline.

The entire time this went on our group was Tweeting at Spirit to try and get some sort of information as to what was wrong with the plane or what we should do. It's been over a week now and still haven't heard a word from them. We were using the hashtag for our conference (attended by 16k educators) to let them know what was going on and also see what customer service (or lack thereof) we received.

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